Thailand Motor Expo 2007 Fails to "Stun the World"

Ugly car

The 2007 Thailand International Motor Expo was supposed to be all about future vehicles stunning the world. I visited the show yesterday evening and I have to say that there was very little there to even mildly surprise, let alone stun anyone.

Actually, despite being keen enough about cars to actually go to the bother of making a web site dedicated to them, I was thinking twice about going to this year's expo. Frankly, it is always the same thing. This year was a big improvement on previous years though, and if you haven't been yet, you might actually find it worth your while to pay a visit to the show.

Here are my comments on the expo.

Before you read through this lot you might want to have a look at the images gallery from the expo here: Motor Expo 2007 Gallery.

Honda Accord, Honda Accord, and did I mention Honda A.... Oh, I did!

2008 Honda Accord

In the hour or so that I was at the Expo I made two concerted efforts to approach and get some time inside a new 2008 Accord. The Honda exhibition area was constantly crowded and it was very difficult to get close to one. But when I did I was not impressed.

2008 Honda Accord Boot

First, I noticed one of the Honda sales staff attempt to close the boot of the 3.5 litre V6 accord, and then when it wouldn't close, she slammed it, and it still wouldn't close. I made my way over when she gave up on it and I had the same problem, and it took a lot of force to get it to close. It actually felt like there was just too much rubber moulding around the edges Maybe this makes for excellent sound proofing, but I couldn't help but feel like this was a manufacturing error.

Honda had many Accords available to look at, but the least interesting is the V6. Because the engine has gone from 3.0 to 3.5 litre, the tax has pushed the price to THB 2.88 million. This means that it is in the realm of folks that have enough money to buy something better than a Honda Accord, so one would have to wonder why Honda are bothering with this model in Thailand.

Proton - cheap, cheaper and cheaperer

Second most popular place to hang out after Honda, was Proton. And frankly this was more fun. Proton are the newest car maker to the Thai market, and the Malaysian auto company is hoping that it will find a market for itself in the cheap and cheerful category in Thailand. A category that doesn't exist yet in this country.


First let me say that I had some positive feelings about Proton coming to Thailand. I though that finally there would be some cheap cars, to help push Honda and Toyota into doing something about the currently overpriced nature of the Thai market which simply has too little competition. So when I approached the Proton area, I was trying to be kind.

Proton Savvy

The first car I looked at was the tiny Savvy. This 1.2 litre 5-door, 4-seat, city-going mini car actually looks the part. It looks pretty strong. As I got closer and started to check it out I noticed that the other visitors were trying to pull the car apart. One guy was trying to yank a part of the engine out, and when I went around the side an older man was slamming the drivers door repeatedly and almost seemed to look shocked when it didn't fall off in his hand.

Proton Savvy

On the windscreen in big text was "399,000" and under that was "LOTUS TECHNOLOGY". The price speaks for itself, this is a cheep car. As for the Lotus Technology, bad move Proton. What they are doing here is dragging down the Lotus name! Nobody is seriously going to think that they have some Lotus technology when they buy a Savvy!! I mean, who are Proton trying to fool?

Sitting into the Savvy and I could immediately see how they manage to keep the price at THB 399,000. The plastic is cheap, the steering wheel felt flexible (in a bad way) and all the switch gear felt horrible. I am over 6 feet tall, so I had to adjust the seat back a bit to get.... "comfortable". This was accomplished by way of a short lever under the seat that felt as though someone had shoved a piece of rubber pipe up on it.

But I reasoned, this is a sub 400,000 baht car. And if you think of it that way, it is the best (only) new car you can get in Thailand for that sort of money.

Proton Gen 2

Next I had a look at the 5-door lift-back Gen 2. Again, the local visitors were being very rough on the Gen 2, and I guess it must be bolted together pretty well, because I didn't notice anything hanging off. Behind the wheel of the Gen 2 I felt like I was back in time. The interior has the space and feel of a mid-90's car. Rear-seat passengers will need to be small people (children). I sat in there for a few moments, and it wasn't pleasant. The manual gear-box of the base model is a sporty looking short throw type, but it feels very clunky (in a bad way).

Proton Gen 2

The Gen 2 reminds me of the old Renault Megan, and if you consider that the Yaris and Vios, Jazz and City are in this THB 550,000 price range, I think the Gen 2 will be a slow mover for Proton in Thailand.

Proton Neo

Oh dear! This is probably the least pleasant car I have ever sat in. On the outside it looks kinda cool I guess. It's a sleek fronted 3-door hatchback, and with a price of 499,000 baht and all that "Lotus Technology", it looks promising. But when I sat in a word came to mind : Yuck!

I got out pretty quickly, but I did stay there long enough to try and lower the seat somewhat, and although I did succeed I still felt uncomfortably close to the roof and the windscreen. Again, this felt like a very old fashioned interior. Modern cars have room, lots of room, this just didn't. With the driver seat properly adjusted there was simply no leg-room in the back. The rear seats do fold in a 60-40 split though, but my uncle has a 20-year-old Nissan that does that.

Proton, what are their chances?

Frankly, I am disappointed with Proton. The Savvy might be worth a look if you are looking for a very cheap small car. The other two... don't bother. Proton will have to do more than offer incredibly low pricing. Strangely enough, the pricing didn't feel low enough.

Hyundai Sonata and H1

With the feel for cheap plastic fresh on my fingertips I made a beeline through the Mazda display (nothing new there) on my way to Hyundai. And it was like night and day. I remember when Hyundai cars were like Proton are now, and it wasn't that long ago. Times have changed though, and the Sonata is a very well put together piece of machinery.

I would argue that the build quality and ergonomics are at least equal to Toyota and Honda. Interior design might not be the most interesting, but it is comfortable. The Sonata starts at THB 1.075 million, and I would test drive it ahead of a Accord or Camry simply from a design and functionality perspective. And then you notice that it has a 5-year unlimited milage warranty and it starts to get interesting.

The H1 is Hyundai's answer to the Toyota Commuter. The model on display is the THB 999,000 model with a 5-speed manual transmission mated to the 2.5 litre 174hp diesel unit. This 12-seater has a higher-quality feel to it than the Toyota. It doesn't feel as van-like as the Commuter. It should also bounce about less than the Toyota too, thanks to independent coil spring suspension in the rear.

What else?

I didn't pay much attention to anything else at the show. Toyota had the new Altis there, but it was just a rotating display, so no hands on report on that. But it does look okay close up, and will be very popular when it hits the showrooms in time for January 2008.

Pictures from the show are available here: Motor Expo 2007 Gallery.

2008 Toyota Corolla Altis